Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
March 10, 2002
Some men collect toys. They
believe that at the end of life, the one with the most toys wins. I don’t buy
that. I’m betting that the one with the best maxims will win.
us no lasting guidelines for living. Maxims do. That’s what maxims are: sayings
or proverbs that provide us wisdom for everyday life. Some well-known synonyms
for the word maxim are adage, truism, or motto. Choose the word that feels
comfortable for you. Just know that wise sayings are much more valuable than
learn maxims early in life. An example or two: “Look both ways before you cross
the street.” “Wrap up when it is cold outside.”
have fun teaching their children maxims. Sometimes it takes a while for the
little ones to master their mottos. One first-grade teacher invited her
students to complete several famous sayings. She gave them only the first half of
each one. Here is what they came up with:
be safe than – punch a fifth grader.”
while the – bug is close.”
“A miss is
as good as – a mister.”
there is smoke – there’s pollution.”
underestimate the power of – termites.”
the hand that – looks dirty.”
always darkest before – daylight savings time.”
first you don’t succeed – get new batteries.”
the world laughs with you, cry and – you’ll have to blow your nose.”
“If you lie
down with dogs – you will stink in the morning.”
saved is – not much.”
these humorous answers make us smile. They also reveal the difference that wise
parents and teachers can make in a child’s life. I am sure that first-grade
teacher must have laughed and said, “Thank God; these kids really do need my
maxims can be cruel. One example is this dictum an angry parent may share with
a child: “If you don’t start studying, you will never amount to anything.” The
erroneous assumption is that the child can have worth only by studying.
also be cynical and detrimental to mental health. I met a 55-year-old man who
was scarred as a youth by a dictum constantly spoken to him by his father:
“Everything you do is half-right; you never do anything right.” His foolish
father even nicknamed his son “Halfy.” The man wept as he told me how his
father’s saying had ruined his life.
father gave me a number of maxims. One was “Hard work never killed anybody.”
Others: “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” “A man’s word should be
his bond.” “Never settle for less than your best.”
grandfather, Seth Johnson, gave me one. Whenever I walked around with him on
his farm near Montgomery, he would insist that I pick up and save even the
least little thing I chanced to see: a washer, a screw, a rubber band, or a
piece of string. Even now I can hear him saying, “Pick that up and save it,
Walter Junior; you never know when you may need it.” To this day I am still
living by that maxim.
that the maxims my parents gave me have influenced my life. I am grateful for
that. My father prized hard work. He taught me to do that. But years later I
learned an even better maxim about work: “Work smarter, not harder.”
are important to you? What maxims did your parents teach you? By what sayings
are you living your life? Make a list. Share it with a friend.
if you dare, ask your children what maxims they have learned from you.
Hopefully you will be blessed by their answer. If not, the good news is that as
long as we have breath, we have the opportunity choose and live by the best
maxims we can find.